Why the painting “The March to Valley Forge” by William Trego?

I have been asked occasionally why I chose the picture at the top of the blog, William Trego’s “March to Valley Forge.” It’s a picture of a key point in America’s war for Independence, created in 1883.

 

From Artdaily.com

The oil painting was painted by Trego in Philadelphia in 1883 and exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he studied for three years under Thomas Eakins. It is made even more impressive by the fact that Trego’s hands were nearly paralyzed – possibly from polio – at the time that he painted it, forcing him to hold a paintbrush with one hand while guiding it with the other. Trego’s inspiration for the painting was a passage from Washington Irving’s 19th century biography “Life of Washington”: “Sad and dreary was the march to Valley Forge, uncheered by the recollection of any recent triumph. . . Hungry and cold were the poor fellows who had so long been keeping the field . . . provisions were scant, clothing was worn out, and so badly were they off for shoes, that the footsteps of many might be tracked in blood.”

 

While I don’t place my efforts anywhere near on par with the struggles at Valley Forge, I do want to point out that getting to financial independence is a struggle.

 

  1. We are constantly being bombarded on media with the consumer culture, how buying this item or that one will make us happier, sexier, more fulfilled, less stupid-looking, etc. The marketing departments in the world have had over 100 years to perfect this, and they are very good. They especially target the 18-35 year old crowd because their purchase preferences have not been set yet. As one gets into their 40s and 50s, you tend to purchase the same cars, same cereal, and same toilet tissue. That is why so many shows market to the younger generation, because that is what the marketers want.
  2. The desires of Family (especially your significant other) play a massive role in gaining (or failing to gain) financial independence. The biggest financial decision you make in life is not your career, your school, or where you live – it’s who you choose as a spouse/significant other. If you choose someone who likes to spend, run up credit card debt, and live an extravagant lifestyle, you will not easily be able to achieve financial independence.
  3. Expectations of society (neighbors, work, etc.) also play a significant part in your spending. If you are a lawyer, doctor, etc. you are expected to dress a certain way, drive a certain car, and live a certain lifestyle. It is really difficult for someone in that situation to buck the trend and concentrate on achieving financial independence. That is one of the reasons I like being an engineer – our societal expectations are much lower.

 

As I said in my earlier posts, I really didn’t get the FIRE “bug” until I hit 36. I lost a tremendous amount of time and wealth accumulation in the 14 years from graduating till then. When I talk with college students and emphasize starting off the bat with savings, I hit them with the chart below. It shows three options:

  • Starting at age 22, investing $5,000/yr. and then stopping at age 30 when life makes it complicated
  • Waiting till age 30, and then putting in $5,000/yr. until you retire
  • Starting at age 36 (when I did) and putting in $11,500/yr. until retirement

 

Graduate A Graduate B Graduate C
Age Investment Value @10%   Investment Value @10%   Investment Value @10%
22  $    5,000  $           5,000  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
23  $    5,000  $         10,500  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
24  $    5,000  $         16,550  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
25  $    5,000  $         23,205  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
26  $    5,000  $         30,526  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
27  $    5,000  $         38,578  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
28  $    5,000  $         47,436  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
29  $    5,000  $         57,179  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
30  $    5,000  $         67,897  $ 5,000  $           5,000  $          –  $                 –
31  $          –  $         74,687  $ 5,000  $         10,500  $          –  $                 –
32  $          –  $         82,156  $ 5,000  $         16,550  $          –  $                 –
33  $          –  $         90,371  $ 5,000  $         23,205  $        –  $                 –
34  $          –  $         99,409  $ 5,000  $         30,526  $          –  $                 –
35  $          –  $       109,349  $ 5,000  $         38,578  $          –  $                 –
36  $          –  $       120,284  $ 5,000  $         47,436  $  11,500  $         11,500
37  $          –  $       132,313  $ 5,000  $         57,179  $  11,500  $         24,150
38  $          –  $       145,544  $ 5,000  $         67,897  $  11,500  $         38,065
39  $          –  $       160,098  $ 5,000  $         79,687  $  11,500  $        53,372
40  $          –  $       176,108  $ 5,000  $         92,656  $  11,500  $         70,209
41  $          –  $       193,719  $ 5,000  $       106,921  $  11,500  $         88,730
42  $          –  $       213,091  $ 5,000  $       122,614  $  11,500  $       109,102
43  $          –  $       234,400  $ 5,000  $       139,875  $  11,500  $       131,513
44  $          –  $       257,840  $ 5,000  $       158,862  $  11,500  $       156,164
45  $          –  $       283,624  $ 5,000  $       179,749  $  11,500  $       183,280
46  $          –  $       311,987  $ 5,000  $       202,724  $  11,500  $       213,108
47  $          –  $       343,185  $ 5,000  $       227,996  $  11,500  $       245,919
48  $          –  $       377,504  $ 5,000  $       255,795  $  11,500  $       282,011
49  $          –  $       415,254  $ 5,000  $       286,375  $  11,500  $       321,712
50  $          –  $       456,780  $ 5,000  $      320,012  $  11,500  $       365,384
51  $          –  $       502,458  $ 5,000  $       357,014  $  11,500  $       413,422
52  $          –  $       552,703  $ 5,000  $       397,715  $  11,500  $       466,264
53  $          –  $       607,974  $ 5,000  $       442,487  $  11,500  $       524,390
54  $          –  $       668,771  $ 5,000  $       491,735  $  11,500  $      588,330
55  $          –  $       735,648  $ 5,000  $       545,909  $  11,500  $       658,662
56  $          –  $       809,213  $ 5,000  $       605,500  $  11,500  $       736,029
57  $          –  $       890,134  $ 5,000  $       671,050  $  11,500  $       821,132
58  $          –  $       979,148  $ 5,000  $       743,155  $  11,500  $       914,745
59  $          –  $    1,077,063  $ 5,000  $       822,470  $  11,500  $    1,017,719
60  $          –  $    1,184,769  $ 5,000  $       909,717  $  11,500  $    1,130,991
61  $          –  $    1,303,246  $ 5,000  $    1,005,689  $  11,500  $    1,255,590
62  $          –  $    1,433,570  $ 5,000  $    1,111,258  $  11,500  $    1,392,649
63  $          –  $    1,576,927  $ 5,000  $    1,227,383  $  11,500  $    1,543,414
64  $          –  $    1,734,620  $ 5,000  $    1,355,122  $  11,500  $    1,709,256
65  $          –  $    1,908,082  $ 5,000  $    1,495,634  $  11,500  $    1,891,681
66  $          –  $    2,098,890  $ 5,000  $    1,650,197  $  11,500  $    2,092,349
67  $          –  $    2,308,779  $ 5,000  $    1,820,217  $  11,500  $    2,313,084

 

Notice how the person who started early and then stopped, still winds up with a lot more money than the one who waited, and then kept putting in. Also notice how much I have to contribute to “catch up”
I often see FIRE blogs that talk about their wonderful, frugal lifestyle, and I get it. I can see how being content with your life is a major point to make this work, and is a key part to happiness in life. I just want to make sure that everyone realizes that it is also a struggle against the current to make it happen, and it takes hard work and perseverance to be successful.

An interesting point. Washington and his army marched out of Valley Forge in June 1778, ready to continue the struggle. Roughly 39 months later, they (with the help of the French) were able to encircle Cornwallis in Yorktown, and after a siege, force his surrender – the final major battle in the war. After a long struggle, independence was gained!

I wish you luck on your journey.

 

Mr. 39 Months

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